Illinois History Minutes

November 29 Illinois History Minute


It’s November 29th, the day that southern Illinois politician Paul Simon was born in 1938. The bow-tied son of a Lutheran minister had a political career that went from state representative to U-S senator. In 1988, Simon was an underdog candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. In a campaign ad, he presented himself as someone who would do the right thing, whether or not it was popular.

“I think I always face the possibility that stands I take may cost me an election,” Simon said in the commercial, which filmed him without his signature bow-tie, as he sat on a bench beside a lake. “But if you go in with the idea that you simply want to preserve yourself in office, you’re not going to contribute very much.” 

Simon faded early in the primary season, and the Democratic nomination went to Michael Dukakis (who lost in turn to Republican George H.W. Bush.) As a candidate, Simon notably appeared on Saturday Night Live, alongside the singer-songwriter Paul Simon, to whom he was not related.

Paul Simon was a crusading small-town newspaper publisher as a young man, and a prolific writer as a politician, authoring more than 30 books.